Birch and 19th

Rhaylee: Daddy! It’s morning! [climbs on top of my belly while I’m laying in bed].

Me: I’m still sleeping.

Rhaylee: Daddy, don’t turn over!

Me:

Rhaylee: Daddy, stop! I’m scared of heights!

Me: Are you saying I’m fat?

Rhaylee: No…

Me:

Rhaylee: Well, yes, yes I am.

Me:

Rhaylee:

Me: I’m awake now.

Walking has become a central part of my life. I love my walks. Many times over the past five months, I find myself turning a corner at Birch and 19th.

One day, about a week or so ago, a silver-haired man stopped me at Birch and 19th and motioned for me to remove my headset. He had been outside supervising the boy mowing his lawn. I never met this man before.

He commented on how impressed he was by my commitment to walk, saying he has seen me every day for months.

He asked me, without reservation, “What kind of surgery did you have?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Did you have the band, or the reduction?”

The impertinence of the question struck me. But it also reminded me of a neighbor, Bob, who taught me a valuable lesson.

Bob lives on my block. His is the last house I see when entering mine. I often saw him outside moving his car from his garage to the curb about the same time every day.

Bob is an elderly Army veteran. A kind man. But also…at first glance, boring. He clearly wanted to talk, a lot. And polite conversation with Bob took some time.

Bob taught me a valuable lesson. We never know the pain of others. We never know the encouragement a few kind words can bring.

When I first started my walks I was typically out of breath upon my return, so I politely waved and kept walking.

As I progressed, I used headphones to let Bob know I was listening to something. Sometimes I even pretended to be on the phone with someone to avoid the long, polite conversations. (I know. I know!)

I often thought it strange Bob would always move his car to the curb and it really started to annoy me. Why was that necessary? How silly! Is he just doing it to try to start a conversation?

One day, a few months ago, I went for a walk without headphones.

And there was Bob.

“Hi Ken!”

“Hello Bob.”

“Nice day. Boy you sure do a lot of walking. I bet you feel a lot better.”

“Yeah, I do. Much better.”

“I admire your commitment.”

“Thanks Bob. Look, I need to get back, so.”

“Okay, have a good day, Ken!”

After a short pause I turned and asked the question that kept bugging me, “Bob, why do you move your car out here to the curb every day?”

“Well, my wife, she fell weeks ago. She is in rehab now. I need the car ready to go see her when she needs me.”

“Oh.” Words failed me. “I am so sorry.”

A few months later I find myself confronted with a rude question posed by a stranger at Birch and 19th.

“What kind of surgery did I have? Well, I did not have surgery. Just diet and exercise. Thanks for noticing and thanks for the encouragement.”

I stayed to answer all his questions and encourage him before continuing my walk.

I wanted to say something else, something to address the impertinence of his question, something to let him know what I thought of him. But I did not say those things.

He did not ask the questions out of simple curiosity. He asked out of need.

Bob taught me a valuable lesson. We never know the pain of others. We never know the encouragement a few kind words can bring.

Even to the least of these.

Photo credit: Staff photo of street sign for 19th and Birch with sunburst through leaves.